Skip to main content

men reading newspapers kenya MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

Selling Africa’s Good News Stories

Low pay and precarious work conditions for most African journalists lead many to seek work with Western news outlets. But that leads to other problems, such as an over-emphasis on crises, strife, and other issues viewed as relevant to Western audiences.

LAGOS – Anywhere in the world, freelance journalism is an extreme career choice. The job requires withstanding pitch rejections, ignored queries, stolen story ideas, and delayed payments. It means reconciling oneself with the economic precarity that comes with having little or no leverage in pay negotiations. But for African freelance journalists, covering the continent presents its own set of unique challenges.

In Nigeria, for example, most media companies need diligent editors, seldom publish incisive features and analysis, and struggle to compensate their staff due to lack of funding. Kenyan media entrepreneur and former CNN anchor Zain Verjee recently bemoaned the reluctance of African billionaires and governments to fund and implement policies that support African media startups, even though they bridle at often jaundiced Western media coverage. And, where positive coverage can be bought and sold, and journalism is viewed as glorified public relations, African freelancers can only dream of proper remuneration.

Consider a recent 800-word article I wrote for one of the country’s largest newspapers; it ran barely edited and earned me a paltry 10,000 naira (about $30). And that was after I haggled with the editor to bump it up from 5,000 naira. A story of similar length would earn me $200 or more from a publication in the West. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that many Nigerian freelancers – including me – gravitate toward Western media.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/CmFwwBP;
  1. benami155_ Ilia Yefimovichpicture alliance via Getty Images_netanyahu Ilia Yefimovich/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

    The Last Days of Netanyahu?

    Shlomo Ben-Ami

    In Israel's recent parliamentary election, voters stopped Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's leadership of the country toward xenophobic theocracy. But Israel now faces a period of political deadlock, and it remains to be seen whether Netanyahu really will be politically sidelined.

    2
  2. oneill66_getty images_world Getty Images

    The Return of Fiscal Policy

    Jim O'Neill

    With interest rates at record lows and global growth set to continue decelerating, there has rarely been a better time for governments to invest in infrastructure and other sources of long-term productivity growth. The only question is whether policymakers in Germany and elsewhere will seize the opportunity now staring them in the face.

    1

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions